In advance of the upcoming SES Chicago 2010 conference, I had the opportunity to ask aimClear President Marty Weintraub some questions about taking advantage of YouTube. His company provides traditional and social pay-per-click (PPC) management, natural search-engine optimization (SEO), reputation monitoring/management and social media/feed marketing (SMO) services to national clients.
We’ve heard that YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, but most businesses are still barely scratching the surface. What do you think keeps marketers from utilizing the reach of YouTube?
It is amazing to me that there is so little discussion of YouTube as a search engine. Most marketers seemingly don’t view activity in YouTube as SEO. That’s the disconnect. YouTube is very much a search engine. There are likely several reasons for the disconnect.
Like Google or Bing, the YouTube search box is automatically populated with keyword suggestions as users type. Those suggestions amount to the best insights available as to how marketers should tag and optimize to achieve organic prominence in YouTube’s organic search engine results pages (SERPs). You can’t export or otherwise document suggestions within YouTube’s terms of service. Other YouTube keyword research “tools” are pretty much lame-ass and don’t offer as much insight as the suggest function itself. Savvy marketers have learned to scrape YouTube’s suggest box using curl or other data-extraction technology. The average client we see is baffled when we meet them.
YouTube ranking factors are a mashup of traditional SEO ranking factors like semantics, linking and tagging. However there is a YouTube internal social system which plays into users’ ability to get videos ranked for keywords. The fact that little-understood social components come to bear on rankings probably is a barrier for many marketers.
Does an opportunity exist because of this void?
Absolutely yes, an opportunity exists. AimClear has done extensive testing of keyword suggestions, corresponding SERPs and the ranking factors that seem to play into a solid ranking. There is plenty of real estate available in mid- and long-tail suggestions, where the winning videos don’t have a ton of authority by YouTube ranking standards.
Also, remember that Google and Bing/Yahoo include YouTube videos in their Universal/Blended search results. We’ve seen evidence that ranking well in YouTube internal organic SERPs correlates to Google.com’s organic universal results. In other words, doing well in YouTube organic rankings portends probable success in Google.com results.
You’ve worked on a variety of campaigns with significant YouTube components. Give us one of your favorite success stories that YouTube played a large part in creating.
We work with a multinational b2b business unit that successfully migrated their FAQs from their main website site to YouTube. It is an awesome sweaty SEO (good) mess. The main website ranks in Google and Bing/Yahoo and drives a lot of traffic to YouTube. Much of the traffic returns to site resources, driven by the video’s content. We buy promoted videos, literally, for competitors’ YouTube videos. The YouTube videos get bookmarked in Twitter and Facebook, funneling traffic first to YouTube and then the site. All of it shows up in Google.com, including the YouTube vids’ in Universal results. It’s awesome.
YouTube recently increased its time limit to 15 minutes. Do you have an opinion on video length?
Users have the attention span of a lit match in the wind, flickering out in very short order. It’s not that longer videos won’t work. In fact, they do. Take porn, for example. Many users skip until just before the end. All kidding aside, as a rule, we like videos to be short unless there is a really good reason otherwise. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all.
We’ve seen evidence that users will sit through a longer presentation if the video is freakin’ riveting and exactly the type of content that a specific user is interested in. Reciprocally, users will bail in the first 5 seconds of a video that totally sucks to them. Obviously, a huge factor is the visitor’s source. Like any other type of “landing page,” the right visitor will watch more of the right video, appropriately paired.
In traditional search, marketers can identify keywords with lesser competition that meet their audience’s need. Is there a strategy to finding content “gaps” that companies can fill on YouTube?
Yes! Your question makes me smile, because you asked this question without knowing aimClear had solved the problem. There are literally no commercial tools available, [but] aimClear plans to share a Mozenda agent, totally free of charge, which executes data extraction to a) document suggestions from the search box [and] b) correlate YouTube organic SERPs to probable YouTube ranking factors and Google.com’s organic Universal SERPs.
Beyond actual content/video creation, what are a few of the top tactics marketers can employ to make their content more visible/searchable?
- Tag and optimize based on YouTube search suggestions.
- Embed the video on your website. The links from YouTube won’t help your site, but, if you use content that is unique from the YouTube page and also optimized, your website’s page will rank in Google’s organic SERPs on its own, in addition to the video in Universal results.
- Build out a network of high authority, active and engage YouTube users. Subscribe to their channels. Interact with them in holistic and sharing ways.
- Comment on others videos. Don’t be sappy or gratuitous. Your participation will seed their engagement in your videos. Their participation is important to your rankings.
- Master and use YouTube Insights Analytics. They provide a wealth of actionable information regarding how users interact with your videos.
- Title the raw file using keywords, without stuffing.
- Use other sites you control to do natural linking to your YouTube profile’s assets.
Where do other video platforms (Vimeo, Facebook, Blip.tv, etc.) fit in? Should businesses look to publish on as many platforms as possible?
We like to put different versions on different platforms. Change around the length, starting frame image, editing, file name and optimization scheme. While we’re on the cusp of larger deployment of tools that recognize audio, video sequences, etc … tools that recognize duplicate video content are still fairly easy to fool. Test, test and then test some more.